Brownsville, Texas, The Latest Place To Ban Plastic Bags

Shoppers in Brownsville, TX, should start investing in reusable shopping bags. Starting Jan. 5, most stores will be banned from using plastic bags and people will be charged an extra dollar for every transaction in which they use plastic bags.

“We want to have a beautiful city,” said a city Commissioner. “We want to make sure that we take care of the environment.”

Not all businesses will be forbidden from using plastic bags. Dry cleaners are among the short list of store types that will be exempted from the new rule.

The Commissioner says money raised from the $1 surcharge “would be given back to city for clean up and environmental projects.”

Do you expect to see more municipalities banning plastic bags? Or is it just an eco-friendly fad?

Fee to use plastic bags after ban in Brownsville [ValleyCentral.com]

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  1. BuyerOfGoods3 says:

    Sigh. It’s ALWAYS to save the environment. Remember WHY we switched to Plastic? To save the Trees.

    *facepalm* There. Is. No. Winning. Here.

    • ARP says:

      It was more of an unintended consequence. I think people wanted to use sustainable logging practices (don’t cut old growth, replant trees, etc.). Because that would cost a few extra dollars, they switched to plastic.

      So, part of the moral of the story is to stop trying to cut corners and do things in a sustainable way because most alternatives have drawbacks as well.

    • sleze69 says:

      I recycle everyone one of my plastic grocery bags. They are used as lunch bags and pooper scoopers. This is just a money grab by grocery stores (to sell reusables at a profit) and municipalities (sales tax on said bags).

      • reddbettie says:

        That’s not recyling, that’s reusing. Those bags are still ending up in landfills. They are just ending up there later than they would have if you threw them away when you first brought them home.

        While I don’t think baning the use of plastic bags is the answer, I’m tired of this argument.

        • Silverhawk says:

          Well, then, I guess I’ll go back to buying plastic trash bags instead, and they’ll end up in the landfill instead, how’s that?

          They’re going to end up in there anyway, might as well be something that uses a little less plastic (grocery bag) vs. a heavier mill plastic trash bag.

          • reddbettie says:

            If people had to purchase their own bags, yes there would be a LOT less of them in the landfills. They are just too easily accessed now.

      • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

        This is just a money grab by grocery stores (to sell reusables at a profit) and municipalities (sales tax on said bags

        Oh, I see, you’re actually under the impression you don’t already pay for those plastic bags.

        • huadpe says:

          Certainly we pay for them, but the actual marginal cost, not some made up $1/transaction.

          The actual cost of a plastic bag is somewhere around 1 cent. So, assuming 2 bags per transaction on average (grocery store has lots, most other purchases just one), this is a ±5000% tax on plastic bags.

          So, no, I don’t think he pays 50x more than the bags cost, which is what brownsville is trying to make him pay.

          • OnePumpChump says:

            No, no, that’s what you paid for it. 1 cent is what you paid for it. We don’t know how much it cost us yet.

      • OnePumpChump says:

        You reuse them. That’s not the same as recycling.

        • operator207 says:

          What definition of recycle are you using?

          http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/recycle

          “to treat or process (used or waste materials) so as to make suitable for reuse:”

          Being that “treat or process” could mean anything, I believe the word “reuse” is sufficient enough to be recycle.

          Recycle does not always mean “throw it in the green/blue buckets for that big truck to take away somewhere.”

    • Lord Percival Q. Pennyfeather, III says:

      No, the reason stores switched from paper to plastic is that plastic bags are much cheaper.

      Find something else to get aggravated about.

  2. bendee says:

    I think $1 is way too high, especially given that many stores have reusable bags for $.79-$.99. At that point, we will just buy a reusable bag. That’s good for that one-time purchase, but in the long run it will mean people just have way too many reusable bags that sit around and waste more resources.

    I think it would be much more effective if the transaction cost an extra quarter. It would incentivize those who don’t have a reusable to buy one, and those who forgot or on a spur of the moment errand will just pay the quarter.

    • spamtasticus says:

      What if my reusable bag is made of plastic?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Exactly. I need to see evidence that plastic bags actually harm the environment more than reusables. I need to see an environmental impact and carbon footprint study on plastic versus reusables from creation to throw-away. Remember, it’s not just how it’s created, it’s longevity, and also what happens to it when no longer used.

      • hotcocoa says:

        Uhh, the evidence is going out and seeing neighborhoods filled with plastic bags in the trees and bushes. Have you ever seen an area strewn with a handful of cloth bags? Yeah, no. When you spend a dollar on a reusable bag, your going out of your way to buy something that you won’t be inclined to just throw away. Plus, a lot of places will give you discounts for remembering to bring them.

      • ARP says:

        They’ve done the studies, it takes about 28X more energy to create a reusable compared to a disposable. So, you’d need to use it for about one year to get back the energy.

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122238422541876879.html

        From an environmental standpoint (beyond just energy consumption), it gets more complicated. Paper and canvas decompose, but take more energy and water to create. Plastic uses oil and doesn’t decompose as quickly, but uses less energy to create.

      • OnePumpChump says:

        There’s more to it than carbon footprint.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

  3. pantheonoutcast says:

    “Shoppers will be charged an extra dollar for every transaction in which they use plastic bags after the ban goes into effect.”

    I spent around $300 on my last grocery shopping trip and needed 20 or so plastic bags, for which I have dozens of alternative uses. Here’s your dollar; that’s all you wanted in the first place. Stop inconveniencing everyone in the name of “the environment.”

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      You seem to think the dollar is meant to compensate for using the plastic bag. The dollar is very specifically an inconvenience fee. It’s meant to making using plastic inconvenient. It’s to encourage you to use reusables.

      They don’t actually want your dollar, they want you to switch to reusables and will use whatever incentive you need to do so. You being, of course, not you specifically (who sound like you’ll pay the dollar out of spite) but the general “you” as in the community at large.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        From the article: “Starting January 5, the use of plastic bags will be banned inside the Brownsville city limits in effort to go green.”

        Unless you pay a dollar. Well, that’s not a ban, then. That’s a tax. It’s like saying, “Defecating in the middle of Times Square is banned. Unless you pay the City of New York $5. Then we’re cool with it.” Brownsville couldn’t care less about the environment; they’re merely looking for an alternate source of revenue, and exploiting people’s irrational dedication to the “go green movement” is the trendiest way to do it.

        • DariusC says:

          Yep, another money hungry government scheme to cook up more funding for wasteful spending on things like the war and plasma screen tvs to display the best chili cook in the squadron…

          But seriously, I think it is a bunch of BS as well.

      • davidc says:

        “It’s meant to making using plastic inconvenient. It’s to encourage you to use reusables.”

        In a world with pink unicorns maybe … in this world? it’s a TAX pure and simple. If they *cared* about the environment, they would “ban” plastic bags .. not charge a fee that will end up paying union workers retirement benefits.

        Wait, you say they plan on using the “fee” to do environmental stuff? which already had a budget? that is now going to get it’s budget lowered cause there is a new revenue stream? And I thought “Shell Games” were mainly supposed to be illegal? oh wait, government is above laws … carry on.

  4. aloria says:

    Without plastic bags, I would need to buy:

    *disposable hair caps for when I color or chemically process my hair (you don’t want to reuse them given the chemicals)
    *mini garbage bags for lining the wastebaskets in my bathroom and home office
    *poop bags for dog walking duty and cat crap
    *saran wrap for extra protection on liquid-filled tupperware

    What with all the extra packaging and separate manufacturing processes, it really seems like reusing my plastic bags is the LESS environmentally wasteful in my circumstance.

  5. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    $1 is a bit much. 10cents per bag if you need one is much more reasonable. Though I suppose until you’re buying 2 bags worth you could theoretically carry most of that stuff.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      It’s not $1 per bag. The article says $1 per transaction. Whether you use 1 bag or 100, it still costs you only $1. Totally worth it.

      • aloria says:

        Seriously, even as a convenience tax to not have to lug around those stupid canvas totes on the off chance you decide to do some shopping.

    • LaurelHS says:

      Yeah, a dollar seems like a high price for this. Here in Ontario, it’s more likely to be 25 cents or something in that range. There’s really a big difference between stores in my city though. Some of them are charging for plastic bags and posting signs encouraging the use of reuseable bags. Other stores don’t bother to do anything; I go in there and buy a small item that will obviously fit in the huge tote bag I’m carrying, and they STILL try to give me a plastic bag for it.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        The point is to encourage you to switch, not actually punish you for not. They don’t want your dollar, they want you to switch. It’s specifically meant to be outrageous.

        • hotcocoa says:

          I don’t see how people don’t understand this.

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            Because it’s not true. The “ban” is purely a tax that capitalizes on people’s laziness – it is worth a dollar to most people to not have to lug around a dozen canvas bags, and hence, they will continue to use the plastic bags out of convenience. The fact that dry cleaners (which by their very nature use toxic chemicals to clean clothing) are exempted tells you exactly how this law has nothing to do with the environment. Why not charge people the same $1 surcharge for plastic dry cleaning bags? They have no alternative use, and are quite superfluous in the first place. And if you’re paying $7 to clean a shirt, you probably can afford the extra dollar in the first place. Because far more people depend on plastic bags for shopping convenience, and therefore, the city will be able to collect far more $1 surcharges.

            This is purely an economic move.

            • hotcocoa says:

              They said they’ll use the money to clean up the area…how is that not helping the environment? People love to bitch and complain when they are charged extra for something, and if this surcharge doesn’t go anywhere, those people complaining will either switch or keeping paying. Their choice.
              You don’t HAVE to use plastic bags that clutter and make the landscape an eyesore when not disposed of properly. It really should be $1 for each bag you use, not per transaction. If you want to blow like $7 a trip because you are so dead-set on not making the switch to a reusable bag, so be it. And those who don’t use plastic bags don’t “lug” around totes anymore than necessary – keep ‘em in your car (or in my case, under the seat of my motorcycle) and you’re good to go. You act as if someone’s forcing you to weave your own reusable bag, sheesh.
              Oh, and I’ve never heard of dry-cleaning wrappers being dumped outside and posing an issue in the same way plastic bags do now, so you’re really comparing different things.

        • c!tizen says:

          I think it’s meant to be more a tax. When the ban on assalt rifles was passed, I don’t recall being able to buy an assalt rifle for an extra charge. Ban = NO SALE, Tax = Sale + fee.

  6. spamtasticus says:

    I have been using burlap bags to shop with for about 12 years now and despise the use of plastic bags. That said, on what grounds can they justify banning plastic bags? This not the way to go about it. Ban the behavior and not the object if the behavior is hurting others. It already has “exceptions” and will no doubt lead to corruption and abuse. How can you tell a supermarket that they can’t use plastic bags but the dry cleaner can? Believe me that this is one of those laws that sounds great when viewed through a pin hole but when you think about the reality and logistics it gets quite ridiculous.

  7. aloria says:

    What about restaurants that offer takeout or delivery– are they going to be allowed to use plastic bags? Because carrying around a zillion cartons of lo mein and wonton soup in a canvas tote sounds like a PiTA.

  8. pantheonoutcast says:

    Also, from the article:

    “‘We exempted cleaners, for example, garments that may be plastic material. That wasn’t the issue and so we defined those. Pharmaceutical, Small hardware stores,” he added.”

    I think “the environment” would be low on my list of municipal concerns if one of my elected officials communicated like that during an interview.

  9. dolemite says:

    Ok, so…if I don’t want plastic, I assume I can get paper bags for free? Because I’m not going to start walking into stores with 15 sacks over my shoulder to start shopping. And then I assume I’ll have my sacks searched on the way out.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      If you need 15 bags, then you must be buying a lot of groceries, and you’ll need a cart.

      Put your bags in the cart on the child seat part.

      Shop; put your groceries in the main part of the cart.

      Go to the checkout line.

      Put your bags on the belt.

      Put your groceries on the belt.

      Your cashier scans and bags your groceries and puts the bags back in your cart.

      You pay; you leave; you put your bags full of groceries, plus any unused ones, in your car.

      Problem solved.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Then, go home, unpack your groceries, and wash out the 15 reusable bags using gallons of water and releasing soap residue into the drainage system. Find a place to hang and dry 15 canvas bags (or pop them in a dryer, pay a quarter and use resources in the form of electrical energy). Put the bags back in your car, where they will take up space, (on the off chance that you do some impromptu shopping that day), or locate a place in an already crowded NY apartment to store 15 canvas bags, and make sure that you schlep them with you every time you need to go shopping. Also, don’t forget to purchase small disposable plastic bags to replace the free ones you would have used for various things around the house.

        OR, you could just fork over a buck and get 15 plastic bags that you can use for an infinite number of alternative uses, and feel good knowing that your dollar will be used to help the environment, as the law specifically states it will.

        • jessjj347 says:

          My strategy is to just stop by the grocery store more often and only have one or two reusable bags. I use a backpack that can also hold other things throughout the day, and I might stick a plastic bag in my backpack if I think I’m buying more. Then you could always carry something bigger in your hands like a big drink container or TP or whatever.

          So I think a good plan is backpack + a few plastic bags that get thrown out after a lot of uses.
          This strategy doesn’t work as well if you’re using more gas in a car, but I think it could work if you happen to pass a grocery store on your way to work or wherever.

        • ARP says:

          See above, more like 3-4 bags, unless you have a big family (then you’re most likely not living in a small NY apartment, you’re living in slightly larger apartment in Park Slope or maybe Billyburg if you can’t let go of your hipster lifestyle). You don’t need to wash them every time you use them.

          But if we’re doing “cradle to grave” analysis, we’d have to include shipping (1X for reusable v. 20X+ for disposable), municipal clean up costs, landfill costs, additional oil used over a lifetime, costs to business reflected in product prices. In they end, my money is on reusable bags, as long as you use them long enough (e.g. 18 months+)

        • leprechaunshawn says:

          “Put the bags back in your car, where they will take up space”

          Don’t forget about the extra weight those bags will add to your car. That’s going to decrease your fuel efficiency.

    • ARP says:

      A reusable bag can hold 3-5 times what a regular bag can hold, especially if your’re talking about heavy items like juice, cans, liquids, etc. On bulky items (e.g toilet paper), it goes down.

      • aloria says:

        Which works out great if you’re a super scrawny person like me who can barely carry a plastic sack full of cans as it is.

  10. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I really don’t care about the environmental impact of plastic bags.

    But I do care about the aesthetic impact. My wife and I pick up trash every day when we walk our dogs and we pick up more old grocery store bags than anything else. I really don’t understand how or why so many of them get loose.

    Is it all accidental or do people not consider them garbage (like cigarette butts)?

    • LaurelHS says:

      “Is it all accidental or do people not consider them garbage (like cigarette butts)?”

      Probably just laziness. I see plenty of garbage cans downtown along with recycling bins for things like cans and plastic bottles. But people still throw their cans and bottles on the ground. Too much effort to walk a few extra feet and dispose of things properly.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      Cigarette butts don’t try to run away from you.

      By the time the bag is actually trapped, it’s either on some thorny plant, 20 feet up a tree, or it’s in the gut of an albatross chick.

  11. pcPhr34k says:

    I reuse my plastic bags when I clean out the litterbox. Double up the bag, clean the box, tie off the end, toss in the garbage.

    • AI says:

      You asshole. You’re supposed ban plastic shopping bags, and then purchase special plastic garbage bags that use 5x the plastic and energy to produce, and are only used once, and put your cat poop in that. For the environment.

  12. dulcinea47 says:

    The environment is already totally screwed. This is a fad… it makes people (including govt bodies) feel like they’re doing something when what they’re doing has an extremely tiny impact.

    • davidc says:

      Truer words were never spoken.

      It’s a “Feel Good Tactic” by Liberal Left Nanny Politicians. Government is generally a *BAD* thing …just say no to electing people :-)

      • Mira Mi Huevo!!! says:

        “Liberal”?!?!?! in TEXAS?!?!?!… Ha you made me laugh and fart at the same time!!!!

        • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

          Oh come on, here in Houston our mayor is a Democrat and she is a lesbian. Texas is not the conservative republican paradise that everyone seems to think it is.

  13. mike says:

    I use plastic bags to line bathroom garbage bins. If there are no more plastic bags, then I’ll actually have to buy them. I don’t think this eliminates plastic bags; it just shifts them.

  14. grapedog says:

    For idiots denying the negative environmental impact of plastic bags, or others wanting to know what environmental impact plastic bags can have… look no further than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

    • AI says:

      So don’t throw plastic bags into the ocean? Check. On land, please describe to me how a plastic bag differs from a rock with respect to pollution.

      • Rain says:

        On land, turtles sun themselves on rocks and choke on plastic bags.

        The real problem is people don’t dispose of plastic bags properly so they end up in the ocean and whatnot. Fixing that problem is like getting blood from a stone.

      • OnePumpChump says:

        Rocks generally don’t leach any organic compounds into soil and water. As that bag (slowly) decomposes it doesn’t just disappear.

  15. toolverine says:

    My reusable bags have gotten more use than any typical plastic or paper bag. I use them to haul books over to sell back, at the groceries, to haul computer crap and more. The big excuse here is reusing a plastic bag once some how justifies not using reusables. That doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Some stores give a small credit of $0.05 for every reusable bag used in a transaction. I wouldn’t mind that number getting a bump to $0.10 in order to help incentivize reusable bag use.

    • hotcocoa says:

      Getting a bump up on the discount would be great…did you know CVS have a program where you get $1 off every 4 times you bring your own bag? (You pay a dollar for the little tag, but it’s comparable to buying a cloth bag at Stop & Shop or wherever first.) It’s great…even if you only go once a week, that’s like .25 cents back each time. And it works if you forget your bag, but just bring the tag. Keep the tag on your key chain and carry out your snack/drink whatever and you still get the bonus.

    • AI says:

      I reuse all my plastic grocery bags. As far as I know, there are no effective garbage bags that are made from anything other than plastic. So my options are A) Reuse shopping bags B) Purchase small garbage bags with handles that will only be used once. So you can go ahead an pick one of these options, or invent biodegradable hemp-bags that use less energy to produce than plastic grocery bags. It’s up to you.

  16. Rachacha says:

    First order of business if you want to “save the environment” is to train cashiers that they do not need to double bag everything. A standard plastic shopping bag can easily handle a gallon of milk or 2 2 liter bottles of soda, no need to double bag. In all my time with plastic shopping bags, I have only seen 3-4 items that could have benefitted from double bagging. Do this and you reduce bag usage by probably 15%.

    • Doubts42 says:

      On top of that, and where a large portion of the bags that end up as litter come from, is the fact that the bags stick and come apart in clumps, almost every time i come back from the store I have at least 1 extra bag hanging onto a full bag.

  17. evnmorlo says:

    I really don’t see how this can be constitutional. Government prohibition of objects based on the extremely weak argument of potential littering is absolute tyranny and violates “equal protection” and in a way “free speech”. Of course the legal system has fallen into decay almost as much as the legislature

    • ARP says:

      Are you talking about equal protection under the 14th or 5th Amendment (Boilling v. Sharpe)? I assume 14th. This type of ban would be be subject to “rational basis” or “conceivable rational basis” review under equal protection and likely pass.

      Remember kids, the Supreme Court interprets the Constiution, not Beck or your hick cousin.

  18. firemunkie says:

    as someone that lives in the area i can tell you that the main reason is not for the enviro. its to make the city clean. the Rio grande valley that is a border area in deep south texas and mexicans love to come shop here and they are dirty slobs. it is normal for them to unbag unwrap and remove tags from everything they purchas here and leave the trash in the parking lot. they do this to avoid paying taxes when they cross it into mexico (to the mexico gov) and then comeback and request a refund on sales taxes (which the us gov gladly gives back).

    • Mira Mi Huevo!!! says:

      Monkeys? HAHA, I haven’t been called that in a long time… You forgot to say that close to 92% of the population in the Rio Grande Valley has Mexican ancestry, so either you are part of the very minimal white demographic or you just called your mom a monkey…

  19. Mira Mi Huevo!!! says:

    From a brownsville area commenter:

    There is a big problem around here caused by consumers who leave bags, boxes and packaging in the stores’ parking lots… most of these are customers are of mexican origin and do their shopping on the US because the product quality is better than what they can get in MX and prices are lower than MX. They leave the packaging because MX import/export tax laws are not to friendly to new items so they open them and pass them as used/previously purchased items. This is an awful and irresponsible practice to say the least.

    That being said, the back-asswards politicians around here got it wrong, there is no plastic bag guerrilla trying to destroy us all… there is no immense wave of plastic bags swallowing whole sections of the city… This is like killing a fly with an A-Bomb…

  20. esc27 says:

    Something I realized a while back. Many of us don’t need ANY bags (paper, plastic, or “reusable”.) Just use a shopping cart, place the unbagged merchandise back in the cart, and then unload it into a crate in your trunk.

    The only problem is that stores don’t like it when paid merchandise is not bagged, as if thieves never use plastic bags to carry out stolen goods…

    • Mira Mi Huevo!!! says:

      I was just gonna say that…

      - What a dollar extra for plastic bags??? Just dump everything in the cart again… I win! = D

      • Rain says:

        I have had several people ask me to do this at the grocery store where I work when they forget their reusable bags. It rather baffles me. We don’t offer plastic, offer paper for free, and give a credit for reusable bags. All they’re gaining by dumping it back in the cart is not getting a few free paper bags.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Cool. Can the millions of people who live in apartments and take public transportation borrow your car on shopping day?

      • LaurelHS says:

        I second that. I live in an apartment, don’t have a car, only have to walk a few blocks to buy food but I can’t carry everything home in my arms.

  21. dreamfish says:

    Fascinating comments here. The gist of the naysayers can be summarised as one or more of:

    - “Who cares about the environment”
    – “I’m not going to use reusable bags because… umm… I’m just not going to, OK?”
    – “It’s all a government plot and we know we can never trust the government”
    – “I’m all in favour of saving the environment so long as someone else does it”
    – “Reusable bags are evil/don’t work/too small/too big/smell/don’t co-ordinate with my outfit”

  22. AI says:

    Doesn’t anyone remember the 3 R’s? Reduce – REUSE – Recycle. I always reuse my plastic grocery bags as garbage bags for the car or shoe bags for travel. There is no more energy efficient way to carry weight than a standard plastic bag.

  23. KrispyKrink says:

    “We want to have a beautiful city,”

    Good to know these asshats consider my dog’s crap and loose unbagged garbage as beautifying their city.

  24. sueska says:

    Thank you for your comments AirIntake; you are (excuse the pun) a breath of fresh air :) The 3 R’s should be the golden rule. Many people I know only focus on one of two of these concepts. For example they Recycle but don’t Reuse or Reduce their accumulation of products. Like you, I believe in all three . In your case you reuse the plastic bags and don’t purchase new.

  25. Intheknow says:

    They want to have a beautiful city? Since when? Brownsville is the armpit of Texas – SERIOUSLY!

  26. CBenji says:

    I have a few cats and I am always going to need plastic bags one way or the other, and I am not going to order any from anywhere as long as I can still get them at a local grocery store. To me that doesn’t seem very economical or environmental considering UPS will most likely be shipping them clear across the country. Not only that but once my cats poop in them I can be most certain that they will be going to the landfill and that they are more likely to degrade a bit faster than the ones that are blowing in the breeze. Also the landfill that mine is going to is producing the methane so that has to help somehow. It may not be perfect, but it is better than nothing.

  27. 451.6 says:

    Meh. Just attend a library conference. Thanks to them, I have all the reusable grocery bags I’ll ever need.

  28. 451.6 says:

    Meh. Just attend a library conference. Thanks to them, I have all the reusable grocery bags I’ll ever need.

  29. SexCpotatoes says:

    Good luck getting the drug dealers to add the $1 surcharge! They use plastic baggies as well, heh.

    Also the Mountain Goats had a song called “It’s all here in Brownsville” that’s pretty good.